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Federal court puts MN campaign finance limits on hold

A St. Paul judge’s ruling will level the playing field for political donations in Minnesota, halting a law that plaintiffs argued “dishes out First Amendment rights on a first-come, first-served basis.”

Only weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned federal limits on campaign donations in McCutcheon v. FEC, U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank on Monday applied that precedent to a Minnesota campaign finance law that allowed some Minnesotans to donate more than others to the same candidate in state elections.

The federal court directed Minnesota officials to halt enforcement of the state’s “special sources limit” law. Institute for Justice, a public-interest law firm, initiated the case.

“The government should not be using campaign finance laws to play favorites,” said Anthony Sanders, lead attorney for IJ in the constitutional challenge. “This ruling means that all Minnesotans who want to support political candidates will enjoy the same rights, no matter when in the election they make their contribution.”

Under the law, 12 contributors could donate up to $1,000 to a candidate for the state House. The 13th contributor, however, would be restricted to a donation of $500, due to a $12,500 “special sources limit” for large contributions. Similar limits with larger dollar amounts applied to candidates for state Senate and constitutional offices.

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